The British government must play its part in increasing pressure on President Assad of Syria to negotiate with rebel forces, in order to prevent a wider conflict, a senior Middle Eastern Christian cleric has claimed.
Archbishop Paul El-Sayeh has called for Christians to pray for peace, after UN members called on President Bashar Assad to step down from his position.
Following a recent UN vote, government ministers from the UK and the USA have been discussing how to handle the situation in Syria, as fears grow that it could turn into a full scale civil war.
Some have called for western powers to intervene, possibly arming the opposition forces who are facing what has been described as a brutal crackdown by President Assad.
And a number of church leaders have claimed that if President Assad were to fall, Christians would be badly hit, as he would be replaced by Islamists who would be unsympathetic to the plight of Middle Eastern believers.
But Archbishop Paul El-Sayeh, the Curia Bishop of Antioch, has called for peace negotiations to begin immediately, to end the suffering, and stop the conflict from spreading.
The Archbishop said that action was urgently needed, if violence was not to spread to his country of Lebanon.
Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop El-Sayeh, called on the international community to step up action to bring all parties to the negotiating table.
The Archbishop, who is a Maronite-rite Catholic, said: “Everybody is suffering in Syria because there is violence coming from every side.
“It is a desperate situation. I wish everyone would sit down and negotiate. Problems cannot be solved by violence.
“There is a concern about the violence coming from Syria but at the same time there is an awareness that conflict will not help anyone and that everyone has an interest in not letting the situation deteriorate.”
But the Archbishop said that in Lebanon the desire to avoid a repeat of the 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, would discourage politicians and people from becoming embroiled in the Syria conflict.
And he said he doubted if the suffering of Christians was notably different to that of other faiths adding: “You need to remember that Christians have been on very good terms with Muslims there.
“They have been living together for years.”
The archbishop called on Christians and others to pray for peace.
He said: “We should pray that those in positions of power do what they can to alleviate the suffering of the people.
“The problem now is the suffering of the people and we should be praying that a new democracy is born and that human rights are respected.”
Last week, foreign secretary William Hague called on President Assad to quit his role, in order to allow a peaceful political transition in his country.
Mr Hague made his statement following a UN vote, condemning human rights violations by the Syrian regime.
In a non-binding resolution at the UN General Assembly in New York, 137 countries gave their support to an Arab League plan that calls for Assad to step down and prepare the way for a new government in the Middle Eastern state.
But the UN Security Council was not able to pass a binding resolution, after Russia and China, who voted against the proposals.
Mr Hague said: "President Assad and the Syrian regime must heed the call of the international community and allow a peaceful political transition to resolve the crisis.
“President Assad and those around him should be under no doubt that we will continue to support the Syrian people in their aspiration for a peaceful political transition in Syria."
February 20th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross